Optical/IP Networks

IPv6 Day Could Stress-Test Small ISPs

ISPs had better be ready for World IPv6 Day on June 8, because they may hear from customers whose IPv6 connections don't work as expected.

That's the word from Martin Levy, director of IPv6 strategy at Hurricane Electric , a competitive service provider that has been touting its IPv6 roots for years now.

Levy is generally positive about the recent growth in IPv6 deployments, noting that IPv6 connections make up about 10 percent of Internet traffic now. But Levy is encouraging all ISPs to reach out to customers -- especially businesses -- as the IPv4 numerical addresses dwindle down to a precious few.

On June 8, major Internet sites such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and more will turn up IPv6 connectivity to allow IPv6-enabled endpoints to test their connectivity. Generally speaking, the Internet community thinks between 0.12 percent and 0.5 percent of connections will fail -- a small percentage overall but still a large number to companies that count on millions of transactions daily to fuel their Internet businesses.

When those customers don't succeed in connecting to their favorite websites, however, they aren't likely to call Google or Yahoo!, but they will call their ISP, and the volume of calls could disrupt business as usual if service providers aren't prepared.

"That's really who they should be calling," Levy says. "And the easiest way for those folks to fix the problem is to enable v6."

Levy says about 50 percent of service providers have IPv6 enabled, but those service providers tend to be well connected, that is, connected to eight or more other service providers. Networks in less densely populated areas with fewer connection options aren't as likely to have IPv6 networking available. (See Cable Show to Highlight IPv6 Transition , Verizon Expands IPv6 Support, AT&T Pushes IPv6 and Cable: We're Ready for IPv6.)

Levy says he deals daily with businesses that need IPv6 connections and are forced to connect to a network such as Hurricane Electric's through tunnels because of the lack of local IPv6 connection. Those tunnels are better than nothing, but not as robust as native IPv6 service. (See Hurricane Electric Offers IPv6 Aid to Enterprises.)

Smaller ISPs are the ones less likely to have IPv6 access available, even though they may have equipment that can handle the newer Internet addressing scheme. Wireless services also are less likely to be IPv6 on an end-to-end basis, using proxy servers and network address translation to handle conversions between IPv4 and IPv6, Levy says.

The big splash made earlier this year about IPv4 number exhaust at the global registry, as the final IPv4 address blocks were handed out to regional registries, has more ISPs and business customers taking action on v6 transition plans. At Interop last week, American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) President John Curran said the IPv4 numbers left in North America should last "until the end of this year, maybe a little longer." (See Global IPv4 Counter Hits Zero.)

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

tmaufer 12/5/2012 | 5:05:01 PM
re: IPv6 Day Could Stress-Test Small ISPs

Some smaller carrriers might worrry that IPv6 migration will cost them a lot of money. I know this worry...in our update of our network at Mu Dynamics, we have encountered some old servers that couldn't run new enough OS's to support IPv6 well. So a "simple" update to add IPv6 had to be deferred until money (and IT staff time) was available to purchase, install and configure a new server.

I imagine that smaller carriers might have older routers or network management systems that claim to support IPv6, but the carriers don't know how valid those claims are -- especially in *their* configuration. On Mu TestCloud, Mu offers a complete suite of IPv6 conformance test content that maps to the IPv6 Ready Core Conformace logo. The test content covers all 452 test cases for routers and hosts across both Phase I and Phase II, so anyone can test their devices to see if they would pass these tests. The content is 100% free.

Why would carriers need to do this testing? Especially for smaller carriers, vendors are unlikely to test their older gear for conformance, but carriers have a clear interest in knowing whether their gear would pass these tests. Once tested, carriers will know that their gear is safe to use, and doesn't require a forklift upgrade to implement IPv6. As a bonus, the baseline they create can be used throughout the life cycle of the network to ensure that configuration changes or software upgrades continue to preserve the functionality that was established on the in-service date.

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